Donald Trump has a terrible track record when it comes to facts and numbers, from his claims about the Trump organization and the crowd numbers at his inauguration to wildly underestimating the budget for his border wall with Mexico.
The latest example deals with the cost of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. The President publicly announced the cost in March: “We’re going to have it built very quickly and inexpensively,” he said. “They put an order in front of my desk last week for $1 billion . . . We’re actually doing it for about $250,000, so check that out.” The actual cost will be almost 100 times higher, as CNN reports. A contract summary file for the embassy from the Office of Acquisitions of the Department of State (available on usaspending.gov) puts the figure at $21.2 million.
The construction project was awarded to joint venture Desbuild Limak D&K, which will adapt and expand the existing facility over a period of one year and nine months. The limited liability company was founded in 2016 by the Maryland-based company Desbuild Incorporated and Limak, a Turkish construction firm supported by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The cost of making modifications to the old U.S. consulate before its inauguration this spring alone was $400,000, far higher than the $250,000 Trumpstimate. The $21.2 million contract will go to the next phase of changes. It seemed possible that the $1 billion estimate Trump was referring to was for an entirely new building, as ABC reports:
Trump’s comments created confusion at the time, as many wondered if he was conflating the costs for modifying the consulate and the price for constructing a new embassy. But President Trump doubled down on most of his claims at an April press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising his estimate for the renovation to between $300,000 and $400,000.
“That’s the way government works,” Trump said. “They were going to spend a billion dollars and we are going to spend much less than a half a million.”
The State Department confirmed to ABC that President Trump’s $250,000 estimate was referring to the “first phase of modifications.”
A $21.2 million price tag to expand an embassy’s facilities is not crazy. In fact, it’s typical of buildings of this class all around the world, since embassies have very specific security features like electronic countermeasures that block spying, armored doors and walls to protect against terrorist attacks, and redundancy systems in case of emergencies. The U.S. Embassy in London cost $1 billion, for comparison’s sake.
There’s a wide gap between Trump’s numbers and the real ones. Sound familiar?